Apples to Apples: Debunking Cold Hard Football Facts

There’s been enough preamble to this post that I shouldn’t have to explain why it’s necessary. Let me explain one thing, however.  This post is NOT an attack on Kurt Warner.  I like Kurt Warner.  I think he’s a good QB. I’m rooting for him next week.  This piece is in response to CHFF, and not meant to denigrate Warner at all.

There are several problems with the SI article that Cold Hard Football Facts delivered earlier this week.

Point #1:  CHFF overstates the similarity between Manning and Warner in the regular season.

The Claim:

• Manning is second in NFL history with a 94.7 career passer rating.

• Warner is third in NFL history with a 93.8 career passer rating.

The two are tight as ticks statistically in the regular season.

The Truth:
There are four obvious problems with this claim.
1.  CHFF’s claims are based on only one statistical measure.  There are many ways to measure a QB and the rating stat is only one. For a look at Manning v Warner in terms of the complete regular season range of stats, check out Stampede Blue.  They also neglect to include their regular season records as starters.  Kurt Warner is 48-37 for a .565 winning %.  Manning is 105-55 for a mark of .656.  Manning’s team have made the playoffs in 9 of his 11 seasons.  Warner’s team’s have made the playoffs 4 of his 9 seasons (although in 2003 he only started 2 games for the playoff bound Rams which I didn’t count in either category).
2.  CHFF uses Manning’s ‘dissimilar’ 1998 season.  In 1998, Kurt Warner played in one game as a back-up QB.  Manning was fed to the wolves with a horrible Colts team.  For the period of the last 10 years where both were starters, Manning has posted a rating of 97.2, quite a bit better than Warner’s 93.8.
3.  CHFF ignores the fact that Manning has played 50 more games than Warner.  Using a rate stat is convenient because it hides the durability issues which have plagued Warner.  Since 1998, he has only played in 126 games (125 since 1999).  Manning has played in 176 games (160 since 1999).  Saying that two quarterbacks are ‘tight as ticks’ when one has played the equivalent of more than 2 full extra seasons since 1999 is silly. 
4.  Quarterback rating doesn’t include fumbles.  For their regular season careers, Kurt Warner has fumbled 91 times.  Peyton Manning has fumbled 52 times while playing in 50 more games.  Ball security has been a major issue for Warner throughout his career.  CHFF knows that, but chose to ignore it to suit their agenda.

The Verdict:  Since 1999, Kurt Warner has had only four great seasons (QB rating over 94) at the QB position.  Peyton Manning has had 7.  Manning is a vastly better regular season quarterback.

Point #2: CHFF claims that Warner is better than Manning in the post-season
.

The Claim:
When it comes to all-important postseason play, there is no
comparison: Warner is better than Manning any which way you want to
slice it or dice it.

  • Warner in the postseason (10 games):

230 of 360 (63.9 percent), 2,991 yards, 8.31 YPA, 299 yards per game, 23 TD, 12 INT, 97.3 passer rating.

  • Manning in the postseason (15 games):

348 of 565 (61.6 percent), 4,207 yards, 7.4 YPA, 280 yards per game, 22 TD, 17 INT, 84.9 passer rating.

The Truth:

There are many problems with this claim.

1.  Warner has played 9 of 10 playoff games in domes.  Some of Peyton Manning’s worst playoff games came on sloppy fields in poor weather.  Kurt Warner has NEVER played a bad weather playoff game.  He has played more dome playoff games than Manning has in his whole career.  Consider what Peyton Manning’s numbers would be if he had played in the same conditions as Warner. Take his 7 home playoff games, the second round road win at KC (similar to Warner’s win at Carolina), XLI, and this year’s playoff game (to make an even 10 games like Warner).  In those 10 games in similar conditions (we’ll pretend it WASN’T raining in Miami)  here are Manning’s numbers:

252 for 393  (64%), 3231 yards, 8.2 YPA, 323 yards per game, 20 TDs, 8 INTs, 98.3 Rating

Oh, wait.  So you mean that when Manning plays in comparable conditions* to Warner he actually has BETTER postseason numbers?  The irony of these stats is that while Warner’s teams are 8-2 in the playoffs, Manning’s teams only went 6-4 in these 10 games.  So Manning played BETTER than a guy who went 8-2, but his teams still lost.  QB play is only one part of the equation in the playoffs.

2.  The sample sizes are so small as to be meaningless.  We’ve
talked about this a lot, and you either accept it or you don’t.  No one
would claim that one QB is definitively better than another after 10
games, but that’s what CHFF does here. In fact, the sample sizes are so
small, that one bad game by Warner could completely alter the numbers. 
If he has a bad game against Pittsburgh next week, his QB rating could
easily plummet by 5-7 points.

3.  Warner gets credit for not being good enough to take teams to the playoffs.  Because
he can’t elevate a mediocre team to the playoffs (see the 2002 or 2008
Colts), Kurt Warner hasn’t had as many playoff opportunities.  In
CHFF’s world, that’s a good thing.  It means no tough road playoff
matchups.

4.  Warner played his whole career in the weak NFC.  Whereas Manning has had several top teams to contend with every year, Warner has been lucky enough to play in the inferior conference.  This means an easier slate of teams throughout his playoff runs.

The Verdict:

Kurt Warner plays great in domes.  He’s been lucky enough to never have to play in bad weather, and his stats show it. In similar conditions, Peyton Manning has been even better than Warner.  Unfortunately for him, he has had to play tough playoff games in New England and the Meadowlands (as well as in KC).  Those bad weather games alter Manning’s stats.  An apples to apples comparison shows that Manning is better.

Point #3:  CHFF uses odd measures to show Warner is better than Manning
The Argument:

Warner is more likely to be great, less likely to be bad and more likely to win in the playoffs

The Truth:
CHFF uses artificial standards and false comparisons to move Warner ahead.
1.  Defining “playing well” in the postseason as “having a QB rating over 90″ is silly and arbitrary.    They pick the number 90 out of the air, knowing that it eliminates two of Manning’s best wins.  In Super XLI (where he was the MVP), he had a rating below 90.  He also played a great game, posting a rating of 100.1 after the first possession.  He had a tough statistical day against Baltimore in round two that same year, but posted 5 scoring drives against a brutal defense.  After the game the Ravens were stunned at how Manning had dominated the game and dictated its terms.  According to CHFF’s standard, neither of these games qualified as playing well.  That’s embarrassing for them.

2. They apply ‘playing poorly’ unevenly
. According to CHFF, playing poorly is posting the worst QB rating game of the year in the playoffs.  This means they INCLUDE the Colts win over the Ravens in their list of Manning ‘stinkers’.  So in a game where Manning went on the road and beat a tough defense and controlled play…they say he was bad.  But Warner’s 11-6 win over Tampa (at home, in a dome) where he scored FEWER points than Manning did on the road…that’s not a bad a game.  It’s clear that they don’t care about facts at all.

3. Teams are responsible for wins and losses.
  We’ve already shown that while playing better than Warner in similar games, Manning’s teams have fared worse.  That’s too bad, but it’s not the fault of the QB.  We’ve pointed out for years, how the Colts have come up short, but Manning gets the blame.  It’s just doesn’t correspond with the reality of the field.  In fact, in 5 ‘Championship’ games (conference and Super Bowls), Warner’s teams have scored 9 points below their season averages, yet his teams are 4-1 in those games.

4.  Warner and Manning have the same number of Super Bowl wins.  Let’s pretend for a second that we actually believe that the playoffs are a better gauge of a player than the regular season.  By that standard, Manning and Warner are dead even.  Warner has been to two more Super Bowls, one of which he lost in spectacular fashion.

The Verdict:
CHFF passes off opinion as fact.  They apply an uneven and arbitrary set of standards to create numbers which justify their preconceived conclusions.

Point #4  Manning is a choker

The Claim:
For his part, Manning remains the Picasso of Choke Artists and the
master of the one-and-done. Six times in nine visits his vaunted Colts
have exited the playoffs without a single victory and he’s
underperformed almost each and every time.

The Truth:
Manning won a Super Bowl.  He completed the greatest comeback in Championship game history with a two minute TD drive.  He’s one of the greatest QBs ever to play.

Furthermore, in his last three “one and dones”, he has posted a QB rating OVER 90 every time.  THE SAME STANDARD that CHFF uses to define “playing well”, they now call “underperforming”.

The Verdict
:
They clearly can’t be taken seriously.  Initially, I thought this article so poorly done as to defy belief.  So I let it go with a slap on the wrist.  Now I realize that people actually read this crap. This is one of the laziest, worst reasoned pieces ever assembled by Cold Hard Football Facts.    
 

*In fairness, there are two other games that could be substituted for Manning.  One was the 2000 OT loss to Miami (you could take out this year’s playoff loss).  You could also substitute the round 2 win at Baltimore for the round 2 win at KC.  That would changes the numbers somewhat, but I felt that the KC win was more comparable to Warner’s one out-door playoff win than the Baltimore game was, and this year’s playoff loss was more contemporary and reflective of what people think of Manning right now.

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